Security on a national scale
The BBC is one of the world’s leading unbiased public service broadcasters. It creates distinctive, world-class content to inform, educate and entertain millions of people in the UK and around the globe. This is achieved across a range of television services, 10 UK-wide radio networks and online content, as well as the renowned BBC World Service. These diverse activities require multipurpose buildings across numerous sites around the UK, including New Broadcasting House and Elstree, as well as a large number of other studios, offices and production sites. The BBC’s international reputation means that there are often several high-profile individuals in any building at any time, and the safety of employees and visitors must therefore be beyond doubt.
A big and broad challenge
Nigel Brown is Head of Corporate Security for the BBC and is responsible for organising and managing the protection of all the corporation’s UK buildings and the personnel in them. The overarching challenge faced by Nigel and his team is to provide a flawless yet unobtrusive security structure, coordinating the most suitable security measures for each site’s individual requirements while ensuring the wider team has the necessary skills and ongoing technical support to maintain these systems. Nigel explained: “Each of the buildings we operate in has a unique threat level and security requirements. This is continuously changing – sometimes on a near daily basis – depending on the events, guests and audience sizes on a given day, as well as the national threat level at the time. We therefore have strategies in place to effectively manage our searching regimes.
Despite the obvious need for security at venues with public access, it is equally important for the corporation to ensure that the experience of all visitors is not unnecessarily impacted by the measures put in place. Nigel continued: “The whole event, from arrival to exit, is an experience for our visitors, and this is one of the biggest things we want to retain at the BBC – regardless of our security requirements.
We therefore need a suite of flexible security measures to make it as easy as possible to scan large numbers of people and bags.”
Efficient baggage screening is one of the biggest challenges Nigel’s team faces to avoid unnecessary delays when entering buildings, and the corporation has many TR50 and TR70 Conveyor X-ray Scanners. Nigel explained: “The image recognition technology built into these systems quickly and easily identifies the material composition of scanned objects and this, combined with the Threat Image Projection software tool, makes it easy for the operators to rapidly identify anything that is untoward. Which system is most appropriate for a given setting depends on a number of factors – throughput, size of items to be scanned, etc. – but we often use the smaller TR50s in building reception areas as, aesthetically, we don’t want a machine standing out. You can even incorporate them into the lines and furniture of the space, as we have done at New Broadcasting House, to maintain a welcoming visitor experience.”
Alongside X-ray scanners, the BBC also makes widespread use of metal detector arches and search poles for screening both large crowds and individuals. Nigel continued: “The biggest benefits of the new generation of arches are the combination of tuneable sensitivity and zone based detection. This allows us to change the sensitivity depending on the situation, as well as to see where an item is on an individual. We don’t want audiences to have to take their phones out of their pockets or remove their shoes or belts when attending the filming of a show, so this solution helps us to provide effective security screening without inconveniencing people unnecessarily, speeding up the whole process.”
Nigel and the security team also occasionally use search poles outside of buildings, for example, when screening audiences in large open spaces. These portable poles are ideal for scanning large numbers of people for a variety of events and can be moved from indoors to outdoors with ease, making them perfect for transient use. In addition to screening people, the BBC uses Todd Research equipment for mail scanning, allowing all mail to be checked before it is distributed within a building.
Support of a market leader
The BBC uses a wide range of metal detection systems and X-ray scanners from Todd Research, including many conveyor scanners and X-ray arches for screening audiences and visitors, as well as search poles and mail scanning systems. “We have worked with Todd Research for a long time,” Nigel added. “The company is one of the market leaders in X-ray capabilities, and we’ve always found the Todd Research team to be very proactive and extremely helpful in all the work that we’ve undertaken with them. They do everything from start to finish, from providing advice about what equipment is needed for new buildings or in response to changes in threat level, to supplying and servicing our existing portfolio, as well as ongoing consultancy and support. The company also assists us with special events, moving existing equipment or supplying new solutions to meet these very specific and individual challenges.”
Flexible technical support and regular maintenance visits from Todd Research are just as important as part of the BBC’s overall security solution. “The maintenance team checks and recalibrates machines every time we move them, for example, when we needed extra systems on site for the COP 26 summit. Todd Research will come in to check and recalibrate the systems at the temporary site, and then again when the equipment is moved back to its permanent positions. This service, together with ongoing maintenance, is very important to us to ensure safe operation, especially for the X-ray scanners, which obviously have the added risk of radiation. This regular contact also means we keep abreast of any new technological developments which may benefit our operations.”
“In addition, Todd Research provides very good training – both online and on-site – for our staff. This can be to introduce existing staff to new equipment or technologies, or to ensure new members of the security team have the necessary skills to do their job with confidence. This has become particularly important with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the large decrease in visitor numbers and audiences has meant that many machines have not been used as much. As things slowly return to normal, Todd Research has been able to provide refresher courses that have been useful for the entire team.”
The technologies and services provided by Todd Research are making it quicker and easier for the BBC security team to screen large numbers of people and baggage, ensuring that they can effectively identify and escalate anything that comes across as untoward. “Working with Todd
Research, we can be sure that our equipment and staff training are comprehensive enough to quickly and correctly identify threats. This means that, if a phone call about a potential threat comes in, we can say with a high degree of confidence we’ve screened every member of the audience, and nothing has been brought in that shouldn’t have,” Nigel concluded.